Having just been made available in the US and Canada via Livestation, Sky News is launching a 24-hour Arabic news channel, which has been two years in the making. Tomorrow, Sky News Arabia, the multi-media news platform is finally launching at 4pm GMT (8pm UAE time).
Joining the ranks of Al Jazeera, Al Arabiya and BBC News Arabic, Sky News Arabia is a 50/50 joint venture between BSkyB’s Sky News and UAE-based Abu Dhabi Media Investment Company (ADMIC).
ADMIC is a private investment company owned by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and owner of Manchester City Football Club.
Broadcasting from Abu Dhabi, viewers will be able to tune in to the free-to-air channel throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The channel is launching with 22 presenters from across the Arab world, with 10 bureaus in the Middle East, the UK and US.
Sky News Arabia’s website launched in beta in February, and with the channel launch, its Arabic speaking audience will gain access to videos, blogs, interactive maps, analysis, commentary and photo galleries.
In addition to Sky News Arabia’s own content, like Al Jazeera, it will also offer viewers the opportunity to have their say, by featuring user-generated content.
Speaking about the launch, Chairman of Sky News Arabia, Dr Sultan Al Jaber said, “Sky News Arabia will prove to be a truly unique experience for the new Arab generation – offering them the highest standards in technology, coupled with fresh original news from across the world.”
A Sky News Arabia tweetup
In anticipation of the launch, Sky News Arabia held a virtual tweetup, where users were given the opportunity to ask Nart Bouran, the head of the channel, questions about what to expect.
During the tweetup, Bouran fielded questions relating to News Corporation’s 40% ownership of BSkyB, stating in response that “Sky News Arabia is an independent news platform with clear, unambiguous standards and ethics policy”.
During the tweetup, the question of Sky News Arabia’s independence was touched upon several times, with the obvious comparison to Al Jazeera’s coverage, which is often seen as toeing the Qatari government’s line. In response, Sky News Arabia reinforced the fact that it is an independent channel, with an independent advisory board.
The UAE has remained relatively immune to the uprisings that have swept the region, including fellow Gulf country Bahrain. UAE president (and half brother of Al Nahyan), however, is reported to have openly expressed his support for Syria’s Bashar al Asssad. It remains to be seen whether or not that will affect Sky News Arabia’s coverage.